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How can I reduce the expense of probate?

If you pass away in the state of Florida, your assets will likely need to go through probate.  Probate is the court-administered process through which the validity of a will is established, assets are located, expenses settled, and the remaining proceeds distributed to the heirs.  The value of the estate will determine, in part, the costs of probate in Florida.  Our Tampa probate lawyers discuss the potential costs of probate and how your estate plan could reduce these expenses below.

Probate Options

There are three basic options when it comes to probate in Florida.  If you die with very few assets, your estate may escape probate.  Your heirs can only use the disposition without administration form if you died without any real estate.

Smaller estates that do include real estate could seek a summary administration.  This is available for estates with a value of under $75,000.  Summary administration costs far less than formal administration and can be completed quickly.

Formal administration, also referred to as regular probate, will be used for estates of over $75,000.  Probate starts with the will being deposited with the court.  From there, a personal representative will be named and the estate will be inventoried.  Probate can take some time depending on the size of the estate, often lasting up to a year.

Reasonable Attorney’s Fees

The bulk of the costs associated with probate will stem from attorney’s fees.  The probate attorney will play a crucial role in the smooth administration of the estate.  Florida has created a statute that sets out attorney’s fees that will be presumed reasonable.  These fees vary depending on the value of the estate.  For example, an attorney could reasonably charge up to $3,000 for estates valued at between $70,000 to $100,000.  For estates between $100,000 and $1 million, an attorney could charge $3,000 plus three percent of the value over $100,000.  These fees are for ordinary services only and services like handling a will contest could increase these figures substantially.

Reducing Your Probate Estate

You can take action now to reduce your probate estate by creating an effective estate plan.  Those with significant assets can use trusts to remove these assets from the probate estate, thus considerably reducing the property that must go through probate. Contact an estate planning attorney today for more information on how you can avoid probate and the tremendous costs that come with it.